After an ugly win in Detroit on Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets (29-20) will now head to Washington DC to face the Washington Wizards (13-35) on Friday night in search of their 30th win of the season. Although the Wizards have the second worst record in the entire NBA, they have been playing much better lately since John Wall has returned. They have won 8 of their past 15 games with Wall, including wins over the Knicks, Clippers, Bulls, Nuggets, and Thunder. Despite those wins, this team is still very inconsistent and has also lost to the Sixers and the Kings twice in that span. Hopefully the Nets will face the bad Wizards rather than the good Wizards tonight.
Obviously, John Wall, who was the first pick in the 2010 draft, has been the difference maker for this team. He adds quickness and passing ability that they did not have before and he has made the entire team much, much better. Additionally, Washington has surprisingly been one of the better defensive teams recently, anchored by Nene and Emeka Okafor.
Although Brooklyn defeated Detroit on Wednesday, their quick start under P.J. Carlesimo has definitely cooled off. They are only 3-4 in their last 7 games. This will be a very important game for them because their last 3 games after this before the all-star break will be very difficult: a back-to-back at home against San Antonio and on the road in Indiana, and then a home game against Denver. All 3 of those teams have been playing well recently, so it will be very important for Brooklyn to win tonight.
Injuries: Both these teams should be healthy for this game. For Washington, Bradley Beal has missed the past couple of games with a wrist injury but is expected to return tonight. For Brooklyn, Toko Shengelia is still questionable with a concussion.
Deron Williams vs. John Wall. Advantage: Wall
Although Deron Williams is the higher payed player and is supposedly better than Wall, there is not question that Wall is playing better right now. Since Wall has returned from his injury the Wizards are over .500, 8-7, and 4-4 with Wall in the starting lineup. He has been a difference maker for this team and is averaging 15 points and 7 assists per game, including 21 points and 9 assists in 2 of his last 3 games. He is also one of the quickest point guards in the NBA, and we all know how poorly the Nets defend quick guards. Along with Bradley Beal, the Nets’ backcourt may get killed tonight.
Joe Johnson vs. Bradley Beal. Advantage: Johnson
Beal has missed the Wizards’ last 5 games but is expected to play tonight. He has been one of the better rookies this season, but at only 19 years old, he still has a lot of work to do. He has definitely chucked up a few too many shots this season, but you can’t really blame him because he has not gotten much help. In his first game against Brooklyn this year, he had one of his best games of the season when he scored 24 points on 10-19 shooting, including making some clutch shots in crunch time. Joe Johnson, who has been slumping lately, will need to do a better job on Beal defensively and also be more aggressive on offense. Again, Johnson will have a big size advantage tonight.
Gerald Wallace vs. Martell Webster. Advantage: Wallace
Webster is having a nice year for Washington, averaging 11 points and 4 rebounds. He is among the NBA’s leaders in 3-point percentage at 43%, so it will be important that the Nets don’t leave him wide open. It will be interesting to see who Gerald Wallace will be guarding. My guess is that he will switch onto John Wall when he is in the game because I don’t think Deron Williams can keep Wall in front of him.
Reggie Evans vs. Nene. Advantage: Nene
Although Nene is averaging under 13 ppg, he had one of his best games of the season in his last game against Brooklyn, scoring 20 against Brook Lopez. He is a guy who can make an occasional outside jumper and it is important that Lopez or Evans stay on him. Reggie is coming off of a double-double and it should not be difficult for him to record another double-digit rebound night.
Brook Lopez vs. Emeka Okafor. Advantage: Lopez
Okafor is a pretty good rebounder, but won’t bring much to the offense. He is averaging under 9 ppg. He is one of the better defenders in the NBA, but still, Brook Lopez should have no problem scoring against him. Brook has been the Nets’ best player this month and should continue his hot streak in this game.
Prediction: Wizards 103, Nets 96.
The Wizards have beaten some good teams since John Wall has come back and I think they will beat another one tonight. The Nets have not been impressive recently and I think they matchup very poorly with Washington. I anticipate both Wall and Bradley Beal having very good games and the Wizards will have too many fast break points for the Nets to win this game.